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Congressional Hockey Challenge highlights education

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The seventh annual Congressional Hockey Challenge took place Wednesday.

The recipients of the NHL/Thurgood Marshall College Fund scholarships were announced, and several panelists discussed the future of hockey and its role in higher education.

"The truth is, you've got some big-time hockey programs, but there's a lot of schools and colleges now that have hockey programs that are competitive," Congressional Hockey Caucus co-chairman Rep. Pat Meehan (Pa.) said. "Kids can come from that level and play, or they can play on club teams where there's some really good hockey being played, so it's still part of the school's curriculum.

"The concept is that hockey teaches skills -- teamwork, preparation, and discipline -- life skills. The program supports college scholarships for some of the players that come out of inner-city youth organizations, so it creates a future for kids that might not otherwise have a future [in hockey]. "

Members of the Congressional Hockey Caucus met in Washington, D.C., along with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; Ted Leonsis, founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment; Pat Kelleher, USA Hockey assistant executive director of development; Johnny C. Taylor Jr., Thurgood Marshall College Fund president and CEO; and Members of the Canada Parliament.

Meehan played in the Congressional game along with Caucus co-chairs Tom Emmer (Minn.), Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and John Katko (N.Y.).

"The greatest thing about this game is really that it's for a charity," Meehan said. "It creates the opportunity to support not only inner-city hockey, which is an opportunity most kids don't get, and also provides scholarships for kids from that program. Some of them are paying forward for the future that otherwise wouldn't be there. That makes you feel good."

Tim Regan, a clerk for the House of Representatives, grew up in Fairfax, Va., and played club hockey at George Mason University.

"All these kids are super-smart kids and they do all four years in college. They don't leave early for the most part and then they go and play in the pros," Regan said. "Every team that I've ever played for, everybody will tell you the same thing who grew up playing in America: It's school first and then hockey and then everything else.

"I think it's been great the way USA Hockey and Canada hockey really puts the emphasis on education and learning off the ice. Then the NHL has really followed that up with promoting some of the players that grew up and came up through the American system and then colleges and pros."

The Lawmakers defeated the Lobbyists 3-2, breaking a 3-3-0 series tie. Katko scored the game-winning goal, assisted by Washington Capitals alum Peter Bondra.

The Hon. Gord Brown was one of two Canada Parliament Members who played in the game. This was the second year members of Canada's government were invited to play.

"I'm just glad to be a part of this. It's all for a great cause," Brown said. "First of all, raising money for charity, combining politics and hockey, it's great. I really enjoy being able to do all that."

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